Sunday, July 01, 2018

This Week in Texas Methodist History July 1

Martin Ruter Provides Instructions for Littleton Fowler’s Journey to Texas, July 5, 1837

The letter Martin Ruter wrote to Littleton Fowler on July 5, 1837 reveals Ruter’s gifts of organization and spiritual leadership.  As the head of the Texian Mission, and an older, more experienced preacher, Ruter was able to offer some good advice to his junior colleague.  He was also misinformed about Texas geography.

In July 1837 Ruter was still in Meadville, Pennsylvania, where he had just resigned the presidency of Allegheny College.  As he was packing his belongings and preparing to take his family down the Allegheny River to the Ohio and then to New Albany, Indiana, he found time to write Fowler.
He got right to the point about financial support.  Texas was a foreign nation, almost bereft of solid currency.  Even the smallest financial transactions were handled with I.O. U.s and promissory notes.  Texas was also full of scoundrels, counterfeiters, and con artists who had flocked to the Lone Star Republic to take advantage of those conditions   Ruter instructs Fowler to take all the validating documents he could—the letter from Nathan Bangs, of the Missionary Society that promised funding from that source, the letter from Bishop Morris who had appointed Fowler to Texas, and character reference letters from friends in the United States who were known in Texas.  And, by the way, be sure to have your parchments (license to preach) with you all the time.   Texas merchants were accustomed to providing goods to travelers on promise of payment, and Fowler's credentials would be among the best most Texas merchants would ever see. 

Ruter then advised Fowler to go to Memphis and take river transportation down the Mississippi to the Red and then to Natchitoches, then overland to Texas.  He told him not to go to New Orleans and then by ship because of the danger of being captured by Mexicans in the Gulf.Be sure to take a horse from the United States since mounts were more expensive in Texas.   I guess that Ruter did not know that Fowler knew more about Texas than he did, having been there to visit relatives in the settlements along the Red River in what is today Lamar County.  Fowler ignored Ruter’s advice about the route, and went by land from Memphis to Fulton, Arkansas and then to his family near Paris.  

When he got there, Ruter told Fowler to look for the immigrants who had been Methodists in the United States and to organize them into classes and establish preaching points (circuits) for them.  He told Fowler to avoid San Augustine where there were many rough and wicked people loitering day and night. 

As he organized the classes of Methodists from the United States, Ruter cautioned Fowler to be very careful about who he admitted to the classes.  Many will be our friends and members of our congregations who are not prepared to live a cross-bearing life.

Ruter then closes the letter with a practical matter.  Ruter had managed the Cincinnati Book Depository from 1820-1828 and was an author of some renown,  His final instruction to Fowler was “When you get to Texas, write me and tell me where I can send books.  I will bring some and ship others.” 


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